Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior is a place of profound historical and cultural significance, dating back thousands of years. Indigenous peoples, particularly the Ojibwa, were among the earliest inhabitants of the island, relying on its abundant resources for sustenance and copper mining. European explorers and fur trappers also ventured here in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This rich tapestry of human interaction with the island’s rugged wilderness contributes to its cultural heritage. Preservation of historical sites, such as lighthouses and mining ruins, allows modern visitors to connect with the island’s past.
The park’s exceptional natural occurrences are another compelling aspect of Isle Royale’s identity. It stands as the largest island wilderness in the contiguous United States, encompassing a pristine ecosystem of dense forests, pristine lakes, and an array of wildlife. One of its most renowned natural phenomena is the complex predator-prey relationship between wolves and moose, which has been studied extensively for decades. This unique and dynamic ecological interplay is emblematic of the park’s significance in understanding wilderness conservation.
Isle Royale’s weather is a defining factor in the park’s character. The island experiences a cold, harsh climate with a short-lived summer season. Rapid and unpredictable weather changes, including rain, snow, and gusty winds, require visitors, particularly RV renters, to be well-prepared. Adequate clothing, camping gear suitable for variable conditions, and knowledge of the park’s weather patterns are essential for ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.
RV renters at Isle Royale National Park can relish a variety of activities amid its stunning wilderness. Hiking is a popular pursuit, with scenic trails like the Greenstone Ridge Trail spanning the island. The park’s numerous inland lakes and coastal areas provide excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and kayaking. Wildlife observation is also a favorite pastime, as visitors may spot moose, foxes, beavers, and a diverse range of bird species in their natural habitats.
Isle Royale offers RV accommodations primarily at the Windigo Campground on the island’s western end. While RVs are permitted, the amenities are limited. There are no hookups available, so RV campers should come prepared with all necessary supplies, including water, food, and equipment for waste disposal.
The peak season for visiting Isle Royale is relatively short, typically spanning from late May to early September. During this time, most park facilities are open, and recreational activities like hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing are at their best. However, due to the island’s remote location, ferry transportation can be limited, and campsite reservations tend to fill up quickly. RV renters should plan well in advance to secure their spots and enjoy the unparalleled natural beauty and wilderness experiences that Isle Royale National Park has to offer.
From March to November, especially on busy holiday weekends, it is possible to encounter extensive queues at the entrance road. The parking areas near popular trailheads and viewpoints tend to reach capacity quickly. It is advisable to bring along your patience and arrive early to evade large crowds.
IThe Hite Ramp is currently not accessible due to closure. The take-out at North Wash is a basic and undeveloped dirt area, where it is not possible to maneuver a trailer in reverse down the uneven slope. The conditions have worsened due to recent washouts, adding to the deterioration of the area.
Transportation to Isle Royale National Park is primarily facilitated by ferry services from various mainland locations around Lake Superior. Visitors with camper vans or RVs can access the park by taking their vehicles to these ferry departure points. The main ferry departure points for Isle Royale are Houghton and Copper Harbor in Michigan, Grand Portage in Minnesota, and Ontario, Canada. However, it’s essential to note that Isle Royale National Park does not allow private vehicles on the island itself. Once on the island, visitors can explore by foot, kayak, or canoe, but RVs and camper vans must be left behind at designated parking areas near the ferry docks. There are no roads or bridges connecting the island to the mainland. Restrictions on rig sizes for RVs and camper vans vary by ferry service provider, so it’s advisable to check with the specific ferry company for their size limitations and reservation requirements.
Isle Royale National Park does not have designated RV parking areas on the island itself, as there are no roads for motor vehicles within the park. Visitors with RVs or camper vans are typically advised to leave their vehicles on the mainland at designated parking areas near the ferry departure points. Parking accommodations may vary depending on the specific departure point, so it’s advisable to check with the ferry service provider for parking information and fees.
RVs and camper vans are not allowed on the island, and overnight parking on the mainland is typically the only option. It’s essential to follow the regulations and parking guidelines provided by the ferry service operators to ensure the safety and security of your vehicle during your visit to Isle Royale.
Given the absence of roads on the island and the park’s emphasis on backcountry hiking and camping, it is not recommended to bring an RV to Isle Royale National Park. Instead, visitors are encouraged to explore the island on foot, by kayak, or by canoe, as these are the primary modes of transportation within the park. Camping in designated campgrounds or backcountry sites is the preferred way to experience the park’s natural beauty and wilderness.
Isle Royale National Park does not have RV parking space on the island itself, as there are no roads for motor vehicles within the park. Visitors with RVs or camper vans must park on the mainland at designated parking areas near the ferry departure points. Parking accommodations on the mainland may vary depending on the specific departure location, and visitors should check with the ferry service providers for details on parking availability and regulations. RVs and camper vans are not permitted on the island, and there are no parking facilities for such vehicles within the park.
Situated at Rock Harbor on the northeastern edge of the island, this is Isle Royale’s largest and most favored camping spot. It offers a diverse range of camping choices, including spaces for tents, shelters, and a designated section for RVs and trailers, accommodating units up to 20 feet in length. Amenities consist of pit toilets, a water pump, and access to an extensive network of hiking trails. Pets are not permitted at this campground. It operates from early May through late September.
Nestled along the southern shoreline of the island, Moskey Basin Campground boasts breathtaking views of Lake Superior. The camping options here include tent sites and shelters, but it does not accommodate RVs or trailers. Visitors can utilize pit toilets and a water pump. Pets are not allowed. The campground is accessible from early May to late September.
Daisy Farm Campground graces the northeastern coast of the island with its scenic beauty. It offers campsites for tents and shelters but lacks facilities for RVs and trailers. Basic amenities include pit toilets and a water pump. Daisy Farm Campground welcomes campers from early May to late September and enforces a no-pet policy.
Located near the Windigo Visitor Center on the southwest side of the island, Windigo Campground provides various camping choices, including tent sites, shelters, and a dedicated area for RVs and trailers up to 20 feet long. Campers here have access to amenities like pit toilets, a water pump, and services offered at the visitor center. Windigo Campground is pet-friendly and operates from early May to late September.
For a secluded camping experience, Lake Desor Campground lies inland on the island. It offers camping spaces exclusively for tents and shelters, with no provisions for RVs or trailers. Basic facilities comprise pit toilets and a water pump. This campground is open to visitors from early May to late September and allows pets to join in the adventure.
Isle Royale National Park offers a first-come, first-served campground at the Windigo area. The number of sites available for this type of camping may vary based on seasonal demand, but typically there are several sites set aside for first-come, first-served campers. These sites can accommodate both tents and small RVs or trailers up to 20 feet in length. Windigo Campground is generally open from early May to late September, coinciding with the park’s regular camping season. Pets are allowed at this campground, making it a pet-friendly option for visitors.
There are private campgrounds and RV parks on the mainland near ferry departure points like Houghton and Copper Harbor in Michigan. These campgrounds offer amenities such as full hookups, showers, and easy access to ferry services to Isle Royale.
Isle Royale National Park is known for its extensive backcountry camping opportunities. While not suitable for RVs, backcountry camping allows visitors to explore the park’s wilderness and can be a great option for those with smaller, more portable camping equipment.
If you have access to a boat, you can explore options for boat-in camping on some of the smaller islands within the park or on the mainland near Isle Royale. Check with the National Park Service for regulations and permits required for boat camping.
Consider visiting Isle Royale during the shoulder seasons when there may be fewer visitors. Some services and accommodations might be limited during this time, but it could increase your chances of finding available campsites.
While the park’s campsites are limited, you can explore the waitlist option or try to secure reservations well in advance. Cancellations and last-minute availability may occur.
Embrace the winter wonderland of Isle Royale by strapping on snowshoes or cross-country skis. The island’s extensive trail network transforms into a serene snowy landscape. Explore the Minong Ridge Trail, Huginnin Cove Loop, and Feldtmann Lake Trail, enjoying the solitude of winter. You’ll encounter the stark beauty of snow-covered forests and frozen lakes.
Lake Superior’s icy waters offer exciting ice fishing opportunities during the winter months. Set up your ice fishing gear at popular spots like Siskiwit Bay or Chickenbone Lake. Anglers can target lake trout, whitefish, and even northern pike beneath the ice. Just remember to check ice conditions and ensure safety before venturing onto the frozen lakes.
Winter brings increased activity among the island’s wildlife. As an RV camper, you can observe elusive creatures like wolves, moose, and red foxes in their natural habitats. Head to the inland areas, like the Greenstone Ridge Trail, to spot these magnificent animals, which become more visible against the snowy backdrop.
Isle Royale’s remote location and dark skies make it an excellent destination for viewing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. On clear winter nights, step out of your RV and gaze at the mesmerizing dance of colorful lights in the northern sky. The island’s isolation minimizes light pollution, enhancing the aurora-viewing experience.
While the park’s trail system is typically reserved for hiking, winter opens up a unique opportunity for snowmobiling on frozen lake surfaces. Rent a snowmobile in nearby towns like Houghton or Copper Harbor, then embark on an adventurous ride across Lake Superior or frozen inlets, appreciating the island’s serene beauty from a different perspective.
Fall is a spectacular time to explore Isle Royale’s hiking trails. Traverse paths adorned with brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow as deciduous trees change their leaves. Notable trails for fall foliage include the Scoville Point Loop, Lane Cove Trail, and Mount Franklin Trail.
As the seasons change, so does the bird population on the island. Birdwatchers will delight in spotting migrating species. RV campers can set up their binoculars along the shoreline or near inland lakes to observe bald eagles, warblers, and waterfowl.
Isle Royale’s treacherous waters have claimed numerous ships over the centuries. Fall offers optimal diving conditions for those interested in exploring the underwater history. Notable shipwrecks to discover include the SS America and the Emperor.
Cooler fall temperatures make backpacking and camping more comfortable. Embark on multi-day adventures along the island’s rugged trails, such as the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which offers expansive views of Lake Superior and dense forests in autumn colors.
Take a step back in time by visiting Isle Royale’s historic lighthouses. The Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Passage Island Lighthouse, and Isle Royale Lighthouse offer fascinating insights into maritime history and provide picturesque settings for fall photography.
Enjoy the warmth of summer by paddling in the island’s clear waters. Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities along the sheltered bays and coves. Launch your watercraft at Rock Harbor or Windigo and explore the coastline, keeping an eye out for wildlife like otters and loons.
Summer is prime fishing season in Isle Royale. Cast your line into Lake Superior’s depths or try your luck in the island’s inland lakes. Anglers can reel in lake trout, brook trout, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. Don’t forget to secure the necessary fishing permits.
Join boat tours departing from Rock Harbor and Windigo to explore the island’s rugged shoreline. These tours provide opportunities to spot wildlife like moose, wolves, and bald eagles while enjoying informative commentary about the park’s natural and cultural history.
Hike to elevated vantage points like Lookout Louise and Mount Ojibway for panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness. Summer’s clear skies make for fantastic photography at these overlooks.
Isle Royale boasts diverse fauna, and summer is an excellent time for wildlife photography. Capture images of moose wading in lakes, wolves on the hunt, and foxes darting through the underbrush. Practice patience and respect park regulations for safe and ethical photography.
As spring arrives, the island bursts with vibrant wildflowers. Hike along trails like the Daisy Farm Trail and the Indian Portage Trail to witness colorful displays of trilliums, violets, and other native blooms carpeting the forest floor.
Spring marks the return of migratory birds to Isle Royale. Birdwatchers can observe warblers, sparrows, and waterfowl at various locations on the island, including Tobin Harbor and Washington Harbor.
Spring runoff creates picturesque waterfalls on the island. Make your way to Siskiwit Falls, Feldtmann Falls, and the falls along the Greenstone Ridge Trail to witness these natural wonders.
Explore historical copper mining sites, such as the Minong Copper Mine, which offer a glimpse into the island’s mining history. Learn about the challenges faced by miners during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Spring is an ideal time for backcountry camping, as the island gradually thaws. Backpack into the interior and set up camp near pristine lakes and serene forests. Experience the tranquility and solitude that Isle Royale offers during this season.